November 1, 2006
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A problem I tend to run into while writing is that when I get near the end of a story and I know I’m near the end, I “hurry up” the scenes to get to the ending. That finish line is a great motivator–perhaps too great, actually. People have actually remarked that the ends of some of my longer stories seem to take place fairly quickly, and when I go back and edit now, it’s something I look for.
A corollary to that is a little enjoyment I get out of books when I’m not completely absorbed in the story. It’s fun to imagine the author writing the story, wandering about enjoying the landscape in the beginning, getting excited as the plot picks up the pace, and relaxing as everything winds down. That kind of thing comes through in your writing, which is why I always tell people that if they’re not enthusiastic about what they’re writing, if they’re just writing to get to the scene that interests them, skip it. Go right to the fun parts. Your enjoyment–more generally, your attitude–communicates itself to your reader.
I’m trying a tactic with a story I’m working on now where I’m sending updates to the person who provided the idea, and trying to make sure that each update ends with a “what will happen now??” moment. Not necessarily a cliffhanger, but something that catches the imagination. This is a trick from film and is stolen from the screenwriting class I’m taking now, but it applies to stories too, I think. Good practice for keeping the reader interested in your story as it goes along.
Chapter 2 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” ends with the sentence, “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” I remember reading somewhere that “the title of Chapter 3 may be the least-read chapter title in literature.”
I like that notion.